Friday, July 29, 2011

Free university redefines college

Free University Instructor Rand Cook shows home video footage of a baseball game during the first session of his workshop titled Responsive Cinema to Corporate Empire held in the Main Branch Library in San Francisco, Calif on April 15, 2011. The footage was found on the ground and later posted to in hopes of the owner stumbling upon the lost game.
By Catherine Lee
The Guardsman
At a time of widespread crisis in the state education system, a group of San Franciscans has created a school of humanities and sciences offering short-term classes that anyone can join at no cost.
The founders of the Free University of San Francisco met in December 2010 when they agreed the ongoing education catastrophe demanded a response because, as is, we are living amid intellectual wreckage.
“The social order is in disintegration. The divide between the rich and poor is an abyss. Unemployment and unease are widespread,” FUSF Dean Alan Kaufman said during the inaugural meeting. “The liberal arts are disappearing, displaced by studies guaranteed to generate the highest income.”
“The minimum requirement for membership,” according to Kaufman’s proposal, “is a desire to teach and/or a desire to learn.”
The founding instructors include Matt Gonzalez, who ran in the 2003 San Francisco mayoral elections against Gavin Newsom; Kaufman, a published author, poet and anthologist; and “Diamond” Dave Whitaker, local icon and City College student senator.
“The purpose of education is not to turn the student into a better consumer and profit earner,” Kaufman said, “but to help him discover the wealth of human culture.”
The founders embraced Kaufman’s call to action and held the school’s first session in March. The five-week-long courses began in April and include classes  in music, cinema history, writing, law, sociology, drawing, science and literature.
Tim Phillips is a practicing lawyer who attended an early organizing meeting. He developed the course, “What Your Boss Doesn’t Want You to Know: Your Rights at Work,” which he now co-teaches with fellow lawyer Darin Ranahan.
Phillips said he is in tune with the optimism and opportunity represented by the ideals of the Free University, which is why he’s taking the time to teach on Tuesday nights.
Since the practical class about employee rights is more like a workshop than a grade-based course, however, it isn’t quite comparable to City College classes, according to Phillips. Other instructors offer lecture-based classes at FUSF.
Classes are hosted in unconventional venues throughout the city – the Beat Museum in North Beach, the main library at Civic Center, Pirate Cat Radio in the Mission, and art galleries in SOMA and the Western Addition.
The FUSF classroom mood was well characterized by instructor Michael Murphy-Loeffler, “This is a perfection-free zone. There is no right or wrong here – we’re here to learn.” Encouragement from instructors and students comes in many forms. Students offer each other paper and pen for writing exercises, and latecomers are quietly offered seats in the circle without fuss.
Students like Laurie Hampton appreciate the opportunity to be back in the classroom. “I’ve been fighting to go back to school for 15 years,” she said as she wiped tears from her face during Bobby Coleman’s writing class.
Tuition, textbooks and transportation have been barriers to education lately for Hampton. Barbara Joans, the instructor of  “Revolutions in the 1960s vs. 2011,” who was in the writing class as a student, gave Hampton a ride home.
Jeff Chen, a stock analyst with two masters degrees, said the quality of the instruction and classmates he found in his March class – John Smalley’s “Introduction to Classical Music” – inspired him to attend a second FUSF class.
Chen is now taking Loeffler’s dream analysis class. “I work 10 to 11 hours a day and when I dream I’m still having work dreams,” he said. “This is too many hours of work. I’m hoping this class can help me dream about other things.”
Advanced registration is not required and students do not need to provide any form of identification or education history. Current courses are listed on the FUSF website
To receive the course catalog via email, visit FUSF’s website and subscribe to the email list. Dates for the next session have not yet been determined and new class proposals are welcome

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Introducing the OER university: 5 Questions with Wayne Mackintosh

Posted 23 Mar 2011 by Joseph Thibault

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I first learned of the idea of OERu from a webinar coordinated by Steve Hargadon at's lecture series. With the growing options for free education (, University of the People, etc.) there seem to be many players joining in to lower the cost and increase the availability of opportunities for education and learning, but there is still a gaping hole where accreditation and assessment and quality assurance of learning and learning materials should be (which perhaps should be weighted much higher in these digital times).
I reached out to Wayne Mackintosh, a founder of WikiEducator and champion of the OERu to answer a few questions about what it all means, what it might become and how he plans to get there.
1. First off it'd be great to introduce yourself to the audience.  What is your background and what experiences in higher education have you had that led you to this project? 
I'm an educator. I started my working career in the accounting profession, but decided that teaching was my vocation and I moved into education. I have spent the majority of my career working in open distance learning in the university sector and online learning. I also had the privilege of working at the Commonwealth of Learning focusing on the use of technology for development across Commonwealth member states. I am a committed advocate and user of free software for education and founder of WikiEducator–a global community of educators from the formal education sector collaborating at the heart of the education endeavour--that is, to share knowledge freely. I have a keen interest in strategy innovation and a passion for making educational futures happen. The foundations underpinning our work in the OER space are educational–we believe that the world's knowledge is a public good. The history and experience of the free and open source software movement provides huge potential and insights into making education more accessible, more affordable, and more efficient. We are combining this experience with our knowledge of distance education, online learning and the free culture to widen access to educational provision in a more sustainable way.
2. Many people understand open source, and even open educational resources, but when it comes to an OER university, many might be lost as to how it might substantiate itself in the higher ed market. Could you layout your vision of how OERu might function and what role it might take in 5, 10, or 15 years?
The vision of the OER university (OERu) concept is to provide free learning for all students worldwide. This is fundamentally doable with free content licensing, free software and the open web. Individuals are free to learn from OER hosted on the open web. The problem is that learners who access digital OERs on the web and acquire knowledge and skills either formally or informally, cannot readily have their learning assessed and subsequently receive credible credentials in recognition for their efforts.
The OERu collaboration will offer courses and programmes based entirely on OER and open textbooks. Through the community service mission of participating institutions, the OERu network will open pathways for OER learners to earn formal academic credit and pay reduced fees for assessment and credit services.
Aligned with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals for universal education, sustainability, and global partnerships for development, we aim to provide free access to learning for the full spectrum of university degrees and post-secondary credentials in the long term. This should not require more than a donation of 1% of existing courses from participating institutions worldwide. The OER university is designed primarily to provide affordable access to post-secondary education for the estimated 100 million learners in the world who are qualified for a seat in tertiary education today, but who, due to funding issues or lack of tertiary education provisions, will not be able to gain credible qualifications.
The OERu university concept is an innovation partnership of like-minded institutions committed to the core values of education by creating pathways for OER learners to gain academic credit through the existing formal education system. In this regard, the OER university is not working in competition with the formal sector, but rather, it is working in partnership with post-secondary institutions to achieve their objectives through the selected implementation of open education approaches. Therefore, the OERu is not trying to “substantiate itself” in the higher education market per se, we are already part of this market by virtue of participating anchor partners in the formal sector who already award credible credentials. Our founding anchor partners including Athabasca University in Canada, Otago Polytechnic in New Zealand, and University of Southern Queensland in Australia see significant opportunities to improve the sustainability of educational provisions as a social good. We are building a parallel learning universe to augment and add value to existing delivery models now possible with the implementation of open source software philosophies and open approaches to teaching and learning.
3. OERu isn't necessarily a new idea, but your approach has been to build a consortium of partners first before starting to build the framework for courses (this is also a very important aspect of successful open source projects).  What challenges have you faced in building your consortium?  What organizations would you like to have at the table that have not yet been willing to join?
Our aim is to ensure that OER learners can achieve credible credentials. Participation and engagement from recognized post-secondary institutions with accreditation authority in their local jurisdictions are prerequisite for success of the OERu collaboration. Quality assurance and institutional accreditation is the foundation stone on which the OERu is based. The OERu concept must ensure equivalence and parity of esteem for qualifications gained through the OER university network.
You're right; the notion of technology-mediated learning, where institutions provide learning at distance is not a new phenomenon. The OERu is refining the international experience derived from single-mode distance teaching universities around the world who operate at scale and teach entirely at a distance without any requirements for learners to come to campus in ways that are more appropriate for the digital age. Also, the notion of acquiring formal academic credit through alternate pathways is not new either. The University of London, for example, proctored its first international examinations at a distance in 1865 under their external international programme. The University of London model was based on the idea that learners could acquire knowledge through a variety of means outside traditional teaching. However, if the student could pass the exams, the University of London would confer a degree. That programme has produced five Nobel Laureates. Today, the open web combined with free content licensing and social media provides unprecedented opportunities to improve pedagogy associated with the traditional delivery model in widening access to high quality learning on a global scale.
The biggest challenge in recruiting participating organizations is the misplaced perception among educational leadership that institutions will loose market advantage if they share education materials under open content licenses. There is no research evidence to justify this assertion, and the fact is that students do not base their decisions to enrol at any university based on the prescribed texts used by the professor. Speaking candidly, if tertiary education institutions are focusing their competitive advantage in the higher education market in the digital age based on their course materials, they need to rethink their business models because projects like the OERu will erode their market base. The OERu network will provide credible credentials at reduced fees. Our point of difference is that we will leverage cost-advantages in the development and maintenance of high quality learning materials through mass collaboration across multiple institutions. The international reach of the OER Foundation's work as a trusted and credible institution will provide the basis for scaling the model.
The OER Foundation subscribes to the principles of open philanthropy and we extend an open invitation to all post-secondary institutions who care about the values of education to join the OERu in building sustainable education futures. The point is, we have the critical mass of institutions to award credit for OER learning. Any number greater than two participating institutions means we are more effective than doing this alone. The more institutions who join, the more efficient the model becomes. It's a win-win strategy for all involved.
4. You've laid out the logic model of how OERu would essentially work (a parallel learning universe). It seems to cut OERu out of any funding model however.  So how would OERu be sustainable?
This is where my past life in the accounting profession combined with experience of the free software model has been invaluable in planning sustainable business models for the OERu concept. First, I should highlight that the provision of post-secondary education is not a perfect market in the traditional economic sense. In most parts of the world, tertiary education is largely funded though government interventions as an investment for the future of their respective economies. Had education been a perfect market, given magnitude of unsatisfied demand on a global scale we would have witnessed many new providers entering the market and through competition observed a significant reduction in the price of tertiary education. However, over the last decade, in most industrialized countries of the world, the cost and price of education has been increasing in excess of the inflation index. Clearly such systems are not sustainable in the long term.
The OERu is not a formal teaching institution and does not confer degrees or qualifications--but is a collaboration convened by an educational charity that works in partnership with accredited educational institutions to provide credit for OER learning on the pathway to awarding credible credentials.
The activities of the OERu are coordinated by the OER Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides leadership, international networking and support for educators and educational institutions to achieve their objectives through open education.
The OER Foundation is a registered educational charity and we rely on the goodwill of individuals and institutions to support our work in providing free learning for all students. If organizations use our services without giving back, we understand that they have good reasons why they are unable to support us financially through donations or membership contributions. The operational costs of running the OER Foundation are surprisingly low for an institution with our comparative international reach. We will generate the necessary funds to support our core operations from membership organizations who can afford to contribute.
On the cost side of the equation there are two significant drivers which underpin the economics and sustainability of the OERu model. First, the cost of replicating digital knowledge is near zero. With free content licensing we remove restrictive copyright barriers, which regulate access to knowledge and effectively regulate the price of closed materials in an open market. Second, the cost of developing high quality OERs when shared, for instance, among ten institutions is significantly cheaper than doing this alone.
The OERu business model is founded on the notion of aggregating those activities where it is more cost-effective to collaborate, for example, open course development or shared support infrastructure. The collaborative services of the OERu are administered by the OER Foundation.
The OER Foundation derives funding from institutional membership contributions participating in the OERu initiative, general public donations, government contracts, and contributions from international agencies to fund the collaboration infrastructure. We also derive funding from international donor agencies to address strategic gaps in the implementation of the model. As a non-profit entity, all surplus funds are reinvested back into supporting the OERu.
The OERu model is similar to many business models associated with free and open source software, but refined for the delivery of post-secondary education. All institutions will be free to use, adapt, and modify OER produced by the OERu and they will be able to incorporate these OER materials into their own credit-bearing courses without being contributing partners to the OERu. (Not unlike the freedom to download a variety of GNU/Linux operating systems for free.) That's healthy, and we hope that institutions who improve OER materials they derive from the OERu will donate these back to the wider OER community. If they don't, that's fine, but in a transparent and open world, prospective students will see which institutions take without giving back and brand trust is a significant factor in the education world.
The OER Foundation provides key services, which are hard to scale within individual organizations. For example, contributing institutions will gain international listings on the OERu portal administered by the OER Foundation so learners around the world will see which institutions can provide assessment or credential services from our open curriculum. The OER Foundation will facilitate mechanisms for course articulation and credit transfer among OERu partners. This will be predicated by an agreed open curriculum by participating organizations. Also, mass-collaboration is required for the sustainable functioning of “Academic Volunteers International.” These are services that require collaboration.
From the perspective of contributing institutions, the cost of membership of the OER Foundation is significantly less than the marketing department would need to spend to get comparative levels of exposure in the international OER space. To put this in perspective, if OERu membership contributions to the OER Foundation were the only source of revenue for the organiztion, the break-even point is 40 contributing institutions for a membership fee which is considerably lower than the tuition fees of one student at most institutions. However, this is not the reason why education institutions are joining the OERu. Organizations are joining the OERu because of their educational values and commitment to their community service missions. OERu partners will provide assessment and credential services on a cost-recovery basis and these services may be funded by government grants in their respective countries. This is a classic non-zero-sum sustainability model we have witnessed in the open source software arena.
5. OER on the web is proliferating, and there are new startups every day that are coming online to help curate, rate, organize, filter, and create OER. What's the difference between OERu and the other platforms/business models being built on OER?
That's a good question. Our point of difference is that we are a collaboration of formal education institutions who are serious about providing OER learners with pathways to achieve credible qualifications. The majority of startups helping to curate, rate, and organize OER are not in the business of providing credible credentials. These startups focus on important nodes of the evolving network and provide valuable services in building a sustainable OER ecosystem. The OERu is a contribution from the formal education sector to this burgeoning open ecosystem.
The proliferation of OER on the web is welcome, and the OERu will integrate, adapt, and modify existing OER on the web into the OERu curriculum. The OERu will will also contribute new OER we generate back into the system.
OER wants to be free. OER is digital data and doesn't care which pipes are used to transport the data or which repositories host free learning resources. A distinctive difference of the OER Foundation, when compared to many mainstream OER projects is our commitment to free cultural works' approved licensing, which also includes a commitment to open and editable file formats–not unlike the essential freedoms underpinning the open source software definition. The OER Foundation does not want any learner or educator in the world to sacrifice their freedoms, irrespective of their software choices.
Some OER projects argue that they subscribe to the principles of modern democracy and freedom of speech subject to the condition that you can't make money from OER by adding the non-commercial restriction on their educational materials. However, many of these institutions appear to have no issues with their academics earning royalties from the textbooks they prescribe to their learners. The OER Foundation does not support the inclusion of the non-commercial restriction, as we believe this is an infringement of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights which recognizes the right to earn a living. Like the open source software movement, we are not opposed to individuals or organizations earning a living from OER, and we believe that this is an effective mechanism for local entrepreneurs in the developing world to repackage and distribute knowledge to learners who may not have access to the Internet. This also an effective mechanism to encourage local income generation as opposed to a monopoly of knowledge distribution by the industrialized countries of the world.
The OERu is building a sustainable OER ecosystem. We aim to cross the chasm from “sharing to learn” to “learning to share”.
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Character Education's picture
Thanks for taking interview from such a great educator. But initially he was an accountant why he move from the accounting field to education filed. By the way great information you discuss with him.
Character Education
Muvaffak Gozaydin's picture
I have been against OER from the start.
What Wayne is trying to do is different.
I understood that OER is
some content created and developed by anybody in the world and made available to anybody in the world free.
1.- Who created the content ?
2.- What are his qualification to create such content ?
3. Who checked the content if it is any good.
4.- How one can trust the content having right things.
Therefore OER is OUT for me :
But I am all for low cost, quality online courses for the world.
What is quality ? Everybody can describe different things. None is acceptable.
Quality in education is gained by centuries.
If an education institution has reputation for 100-200 years and still have it, that is quality for me .
Fortunately quality institutions such as ivy league universities plus some more started to make their original ( not second hand ) ONLINE content available to public FREE. I am against to be free. They should charge $ 10 per course .
They should charge some nominal fee to cover expenses. YALE in this respect is fantastic. Just look up
Yale, Harvard, Princeton, MIT , Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA, Columbia, Michigan are there. They provide roughly 150 courses. But they say they will increase every year by 20 or so courses . Now it is available to everybody .
Number ONE :
Only first class online material should be delivered to 100 million people of the world
Number TWO
It should be charged. a nominal fee.
People should be able to get a degree at the end.
They do not do it .
So what I do :
1.- I Suggest to the existing good universities , not top once, to adopt online courses from academicearth.
2.- Assign an instructor, facilitator of the university for an online course from academicearth.
3.- Let the facilitator organise a forum and LMS to supervise students
4.- Give students homeworks, midterms, final.
Solutions are all provided by academicearth.
5.- Make the final f2f and give grades to student and give credits to be counted toward a degree.
Benefits :
1.- The quality of the local university increases with the courses from ivy league university
2.- Students are charged only a nominal fee to be paid to superviser + academicearth ( they do not accept that yet ) for sustainability of the project. Cost to university is nothing
3.- Employers prefer students if they have taken courses from Stanford, Yale etc.
4.- Local universities create more rooms for f2f students. If 50 % of the courses are taken as online in any university the capacity of the university goes up 100 %. That is if they have 5,000 f2f students at the beginning and they take 50 % online courses the number of the students will go up to 10,000 without any investment for classrooms etc plus no heating, no cleaning
Created by Carnegie Mellon. But not to full scale.
Obama visited them. He gave a very good point.
SHARE. Share what you have .
So Carnegie shares its online courses with other universities in Pennsylvania. I gues they charge something nominal .
No need to reinvent the wheel again and again. One online should be used by 16,000,000 university students in USA. Then the cost per student is only facilitators salary .
These 2 models in the operation now.
Visit my humble
providing links to academicearth + MIT OCW + + free ebooks+ ONLINE English for non English speakers.
That costs me only $ 100 per year. I am happy.
I send emails to all Universities in the world one by one to make use of academicearth . Very humble way .
If anybody helps I would appreciate it .
joeythibault's picture
Rock Star
You're right, OER is only as good as it's creators and the reviewers (who should/must be experts in the same content field). It's very important moving forward to properly vet open content to verify it's quality. Without quality how can we ensure learning outcomes?
Zarah Tuman's picture
Nihilism is valid when justified. Do some reading on the topic before criticising. The $ per course won't guarantee you quality education. Hillarious suggestions!
Muvaffak Gozaydin's picture
1.- Nobody measure quality of education by $
2.- What do you suggest please elaborate
3.- Nihilism is very phllosophical concept.
Not everybody can understand.
Muvaffak Gozaydin's picture
I joined the OERu group 5-6 months ago.
They are after my dream of reaching to whole world.
1. They are after quality education I agree
2.- They say students should get some credit from some accredited institution at the end. I agree.
3.- Students should pay some nomiinal fee. I agree.
4.- They say " to set up member universities " It is very hard.
5.- They say they will get donations. Extremely difficult.
6.- To get recognations world wide is also very diffucult.
But I support all educational world through technology to the whole world.
I redommend UNESCO should bring these effors together one day .
Introducing OER university 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Popular Ways that OpenCourseWare Is Used recently ran a survey asking readers to detail their familiarity with OpenCourseWare (OCW), free college course materials available online to any interested learners. We wanted respondents to tell us how they use OCW, what kinds of OCW they find most helpful and more. Here are the results.

by Eric Garneau
One of the key questions asked of its readers was how they made use of OCW. Tellingly, about 40% of the survey's respondents answered that they didn't know what OCW was, and 46% said they'd never used it. Those who had used OCW found it valuable for both personal and professional enrichment.

'To Update My Skills or Knowledge for Work'

About 30% of our survey's respondents who were familiar with OCW used it outside the traditional college setting, hoping to bulk up their knowledge and preparation for tasks they'd face on the job. This answer may indicate that OCW can find success replacing more traditional adult education/re-education programs - there's less need to re-enroll in college for job skills when you can get what you need for free on the Internet.

'For My Personal Interest/Entertainment'

Perhaps surprisingly, around 27% of our survey-takers - just narrowly the second largest group - found a use for OCW that seems antithetical to its educational purpose: fun. Could this response mean that those people who seek out OCW are motivated self-starters when it comes to education, that they crave knowledge even when it has no practical benefit to them? Or does it rather speak to the fact that more and more often OCW is presented in an attractive fashion meant to appeal to users familiar with YouTube, Hulu and other time-killing multimedia sites? Realistically, probably a little bit of both is the case.

'To Learn Something for a Specific Project or Task'

Roughly 17% of our survey's respondents chose to use OCW in a more focused method, accessing the necessary material when it helped them complete something they were currently working on. In a way, this seems like the most common use of information on the Internet - when you lack knowledge to finish what you're doing, you go to Google to learn more about that topic. Perhaps we ought to be surprised, then, that for our survey-takers this use ranked third by a significant margin. It seems as though OCW engenders more long-term usage from many of its supporters.

'To Help Understand Concepts I'm Studying'

Only 15% of those who took our survey used OCW as a study aide. That may strike some as curious, given that it may be perhaps OCW's most obvious application. However, it's possible that actual college students have less use for OCW than those not in college - they already have course material to study, and it's material they've paid for, so why not use it? Much has been made of OCW's ability to appeal to non-traditional students who may not have easy access to college, something that this survey seems to correlate.

'To Help Me Create Teaching Materials'

Although only a scant seven percent of our readers used OCW to help their own classroom presentations, this bears mentioning because it's not necessarily a usage that immediately comes to mind. Perhaps one of the best untapped applications of OCW is its ability to contribute to an ongoing dialog in the world of teaching. What techniques, materials and evaluations work best? Which don't? As a free, open resource, OCW can help to vet so-called 'best practices' in education, and it might give teachers some new ideas about delivering their own course material in the classroom.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Open Education Is Transforming the Way We Learn: Ray Schroeder Speaks to

Jun 15, 2011

Ray Schroeder is the Professor Emeritus of Communication and the founding director of the Center for Online Learning, Research and Service at the University of Illinois at Springfield. His numerous awards and acknowledgements include the 2010 A. Frank Mayadas Leadership Award, the Sloan Consortium's highest individual award
By Jeff Calareso

Ray Schroeder

Through his presentations, research and teachings, Ray Schroeder is a leader in the field of open education. His work in open education has been recognized consistently for more than a decade. We spoke with him about how he sees open education changing the way we learn today and where he sees this field heading in the coming years.

Q. Could you briefly describe the goals of the Center for Online Learning, Research and Service?

A. The Center for Online Learning, Research and Service supports faculty members at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) in fulfilling their three-part mission of teaching, scholarship and service. This includes providing support for both original scholarly research and the dissemination of results; building synergies between discovery research and the enhancement of current online education practices; informing, empowering, assisting and supporting the faculty of UIS in the delivery of courses, degrees and certificate programs through the Internet; and, finally, reaching out around the globe to build exciting new online collaborations among educational institutions, government agencies and businesses.

Q. What type of student is utilizing open education these days and how has that changed over the past decade? How do you think it will continue to change over the next decade?

A. At UIS, the average age of the online student is 35 at the graduate level and 34 at the undergraduate level. We offer 17 degree and degree-completion programs to some 1,400 students residing across the U.S. and in ten foreign countries. Our students are commonly mid-career professionals, though many are either younger students seeking to complete their degrees while working outside of a campus or older, more senior students seeking enrichment and later career or volunteer experiences.

We are seeing a surge in students who begin their academic careers at community colleges while working in their home communities. They transfer to UIS Online to complete their degrees in a flexible way that works around their schedule.

I recently delivered the keynote address at the e-Cornucopia conference at Oakland University in Michigan on the open future of higher education. I used a Venn diagram in which I graphically describe the three major forces coming together to promote open online educational resources:

The higher education 'bubble' has grown quite large. We are likely to see a growing number of students seeking more affordable options than the traditional path to a college degree. Online learning certainly offers a reduction in commuting costs and college residential costs. Open resources such as open textbooks offer a reduction in the average of $900 that college students pay for texts each year.

Over the next decade we may see the advent of the OERu - a model in which students take open college courses freely available on the Web and then seek academic credit through credentialing of their learning at a university which provides assessment, validation and academic credit at a cost lower than formal classes.

Q. Are open educational resources primarily focused on self-paced learning? How do faculty members currently engage with students in an online environment and how do you think this could improve further?

A. Many open resources are designed for self-paced learning, but the research tells us that much of the knowledge-building takes place in the interaction and engagement of students with each other, with the instructor and with the discipline. Generally, we encourage faculty members to engage often with students. In a class with 25 students, my discussion boards commonly include more than 2,000 postings by the end of the term. In open learning, I would suggest that mentors facilitate discussions and engage students as they progress through materials.

Q. Do you think that free online universities and open educational resources could burst the higher education bubble?

A. I am an incrementalist. I believe that a variety of changes may help to address the escalating cost of higher education. First, open textbooks and using online resources may save students considerably - the average U.S. student is said to spend some $900 a year on texts. Second, the taking of online classes can save students from expensive commutes to campus. A student commuting 20 miles each way to a class, three times a week, would save more than a thousand dollars a semester at the rate of $0.55/mile. Students who choose to begin their college careers at community colleges may save enormously on tuition and fees. Compared to a university that charges $350/credit hour, a $100/credit hour community college could save a student $15,000 over the first 60 credit hours. Those steps alone - taking the first 60 hours at a community college online and accessing open texts - would mean some $25,000 in savings, not to mention dorm and food service costs that are higher at college than living at home. Further savings would be realized by completing the degree online.

Certainly, open educational resources could open the door to further savings, but one would want to closely evaluate the value added by engagement and interaction with an instructor and fellow students.

Q. How can students be sure that the open resources they use carry accurate, valid and up-to-date information? Who validates these resources?

A. If one pursues an OERu model, some envision that 'academic volunteers' would become open learning enablers. Also, those who evaluate the learning will want to assess some of the open resources and recommend updates and changes. At this point, sustaining the open resources remains an unanswered question. Participating universities would provide assessment and credit for a fee lower than that which is associated with traditional tuition and fees.

Q. How do open resources implement best practices and educational research? Are new best practices or research needed?

A. Certainly, many in our field advocate openly sharing knowledge and tools as much as possible. Information should be free. Yet, research shows us that learning takes place best in a community environment where students, the instructor and resources of the discipline are encouraged to engage and interact. In an open environment the instructor role is less certain. Students may interact with one another and with materials, but an instructor may not be fully engaged.

Q. Has the perception among professors changed with regard to students using online resources like Wikipedia?

A. Well, one has to begin with the fact that Wikipedia is, after all, an encyclopedia. I believe that the perception is that it is no better or worse than other encyclopedias and is likely more current. But professors are commonly looking for students to seek out more academic sources for their research than encyclopedias. Current journals, books and authoritative databases are the currency of college-level bibliographies.

Q. In your opinion, what motivates a prestigious institution like MIT, Harvard or Stanford to put their courses online? How does this benefit the school?

A. Opening course materials to the world is an expression of commitment to the concept of providing access to information. It also serves, in at least a small way, to stimulate interest and awareness of quality teaching and high-level expectations of learning at your institution. While there is a public relations benefit, I do not believe that the Ivy League schools are doing this merely for raising public awareness. They are giving back to the academic community at large.

Q. Do you think the increasing ubiquity of open educational resources will inherently challenge classroom-based learning? Or will there always be a prominent role for live, in-person education?

A. I believe that self-paced and self-directed online learning best serves training purposes. Deeper learning and true engagement in the topic thrives best in an environment with a skilled and active teacher who can challenge each learner to build personal knowledge that will meet their individual needs and expectations, whether it be asynchronously online, synchronously online or face-to-face. Open educational resources can provide valuable tools and learning modules that can be used by a skilled teacher to enhance a course.

Q. Are there fields or topics that require traditional courses and aren't well-suited to the online environment? If so, what characteristics do they have?

A. I am aware of no field or topic that cannot be taught at a distance. Virtual labs are well established and widely available with simulations or direct distant control of experiments and monitors (just as they commonly are in industry); public speaking is successfully taught online at a hundred or more institutions; even dance and theater are taught at a distance. With two billion people online, we have increasingly become an online world. Tools and techniques are advancing daily. The addition of 3-D technologies will add much to the study of biology, art, dance and other such fields.

Q. Looking ahead, who would you describe as the future creators of online knowledge?

A. This is an exciting aspect of the field. In the past it was money and access to resources, such as publishers and distributors, that held back the distribution of knowledge. In less than half a century, we have collectively constructed a worldwide repository of resources and communication that is available to nearly everyone and regularly accessed by one-third of the population of the world! And, it is rapidly growing every day! While it was limited to a tiny fraction of humanity - the privileged few - when the Beatles emerged in Liverpool, broad access to current knowledge is now instantly and economically available even in the far reaches of third world countries. Equally important is that the creators of the knowledge on the Internet are everyone. Creators are not limited by culture, location, class, money, education, language. When in the history of our species have we had such unfettered access? And, who would have imagined even a dozen years ago that access to the Internet would be asserted a 'human right' worldwide? It has become part of the fabric of human society.

Q. What's the next horizon in open education? What changes or advancements would you like to see in the next decade?

A. The horizon is wide indeed. There is much to be accomplished in the near term in technologies and bandwidth. The $25 network computer is not far away. Terrific 4-G bandwidth is spreading across continents at increasing rates. Ubiquitous access is soon to be within our grasp. There is much to be addressed in making information and knowledge-building processes broadly available and 'findable' online. The semantic web - as described by Tim Berners-Lee - remains an unfulfilled goal that we may approach over the next decade.

Q. Finally, is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers about the current role and future of online educational resources?

A. The Center for Online Learning, Research and Service at UIS is launching a Massive Open Online Class (MOOC) on 'Online Learning Today, and Tomorrow.' It will begin June 27, 2011 and run for eight weeks. It is totally open, free and collaborative. It can be totally asynchronous, or those attending can join in weekly panel discussions with experts in various aspects of the topic. Those attending are invited to view the schedule and register with only their name and e-mail address so they may be given access to all materials and begin building their own personal learning network on the topic.

Open Education Is Transforming the Way We Learn: Ray Schroeder Speaks to